Ap and Senior Literature

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AP and Senior Literature

Dr. East

Poetry and Poetics: Figures of Speech
Symbol, Allegory, Overstatement, Understatement, Personification, Paradox, Synecdoche, Irony, Metaphor, Apostrophe, Metaphor, Allusion

"The swiftest traveler is he that goes afoot."
(Henry David Thoreau, Walden)
"War is peace."
"Freedom is slavery."
"Ignorance is strength."
(George Orwell, 1984)
"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
(C.S. Lewis to his godchild)
"'Take some more tea,' the March hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can't take more.'
'You mean you can't take less,' said the Hatter. 'It's very easy to take more than nothing.'"
(Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
"I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire."
(Pablo Neruda)

I see the light at the end of the tunnel

It’s raining cats and dogs

Behind enemy lines

Falling in love

Racking our brains

Climbing the ladder of success

Light as a feather

Cry me a river

I didn’t like that book. (the contents of the book)

He has brains. (what is inside his brain – intelligence)

The truck hit me from behind. (The truck hit my car from behind.)

The press has made my life hell. (Journalists)

Today, we will be performing Shakespeare. (a play of Shakespeare)

Bush has launched an attack. (America)

I couldn’t catch his tongue. (language)

The Pentagon has made an announcement. (the U.S. dept. of defense)

They will reach the ceptered isles by sunset. (Britain)

The White House is certain of the positive outcome of its actions. (The President and his staff)
Litotes (understatement)

It won’t be easy to find crocodiles in the dark.

She’s no idiot.

That’s not a meager sum.

You’re not doing badly.

That’s no mean feat.

He is no Einstein.

It’s not impossible.

(delightedly) I’m not unhappy.

She’s not a bad writer at all.

Go ahead. The dog won’t eat you.

He is not unlike his dad.

That’s no small accomplishment.

He is not the kindest person I’ve met.

That is no ordinary boy.

He is not unaware of what you said behind his back.

That wasn’t surprising. (with eyes rolling and a surprised expression. Imagine Chandler.)

You’re not unattractive.

This is no minor matter.

The weather is not unpleasant at all.

She’s no doll.

That was no small issue.

I have a few friends. (when you’re standing with a dozen)

The city is not unclean.

Types of Irony (NOT to memorize, simply to consume)

Verbal irony

In verbal irony, a speaker says something that differs from what he actually means. Generally, it happens due to the ignorance of the speaker of a larger context of which he is not conscious.

Verbal irony in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter – The Recognition

Dimmesdale to Hester (speaking aloud before others, knowing HE is the father)
“…Hester, though he were to step down from a high place,
and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were
it so than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do
for him, except it tempt him yea, compel him, as it were to add
hypocrisy to sin . . . Take heed how thou deniest
to him who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for
himself the bitter, but wholesome cup
 that is now presented
to thy lips!”

Later in the book we see that it is Dimmesdale predicting his future in these lines. He did ‘add hypocrisy to sin’ by staying quiet about his affair with Hester, and that he ‘hath not the courage to grasp it for himself, the bitter but wholesome cup’ due to which he suffered in silence and endured guilt and loneliness.

Dramatic or tragic irony

Dramatic irony is used especially in plays. When a character, in ignorance, says something which has a different meaning from what he intends to express, then it is an instance of dramatic irony. Later, the character comes to know about the true nature of his actions, which leads to tragedy.

Dramatic irony was mostly used in ancient Greek plays where the spectators were fully aware of the plot, intentions and situation whereas the character/characters weren’t. In such a setting, characters said things without knowing what their larger significance was.


In Othello by Shakespeare, Othello is suspicious of his wife, Desdemona, when there is no cause for suspicion. The characters are oblivious of the whole truth, but the readers can see the advance of tragedy.

In Oedipus the King by Sophocles, King Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother, which later lead to the tragedy.

In Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Romeo kills himself after he believes that Juliet is dead.

Structural irony

When an ironic voice is continued through a work by the means of a narrator or a character whose viewpoint is unreliable or wrong, then it’s called structural irony.

Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay The Modest Proposal uses structural irony.

Candide, a French satire by Voltaire, has a character named Candide, who has blind optimism, but later becomes disillusioned.
Socratic Irony

This is just being clever, and there is little irony in it. When a person or a character feigns ignorance to extract a secret or expose a person, then you can say he is using Socratic irony. Through the use of Socratic irony, you can very cleverly have a person reveal things that he intends to hide.

Louis Theroux in television series When Louis Met… is a perfect example of Socratic irony.
Cosmic Irony

If you believe that God or a Supreme Being is manipulating events or humans for fun or some other motive, then you might be knocking on Cosmic Irony. In short, you hope and God dashes them.

A short story titled The Open Boat by Stephen Crane deals with cosmic irony.
Roman irony

When someone purposely uses words which have double meaning to consciously stir a particular response in a listener or a reader, then you can say that he is using roman irony. The difference between Socratic irony and Roman irony is that the speaker doesn’t expect the listeners to participate in the dialogue directly.

That is basically for politicians or such as Antony of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, who need to juggle a lot of balls. What explanation won’t do, example will.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Antony –
“…The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
Situational irony

When the expected outcome of a situation is in contrast with what actually results from it, then that’s called situational irony.

In fiction, the reader might know beforehand that the situation will unfold not as the characters think it will, but in some unexpected way. This technique will make the reader feel for the character who is expecting something very different from what he will actually have to deal with. Also, you can hide the outcome from the reader till it actually happens so that the reader will be surprised by the unexpected outcome, and so will the character.

The short story titled The Gift of the Magi by O Henry uses situational irony. In it, Jim and Della decide to buy a gift for each other for Christmas. Due to lack of money, Jim sells his watch to buy a set of combs for Della while Della gets her long hair cut and sold to buy a new chain for Jim’s watch.

Romantic or philosophical irony

In romantic irony, the human ability to create art consciously rather than naturally, like plants create fruits, etc., is seen in contrast with the outcome of such art. The outcome of art is seen as a fall because then it takes on a definite form; whereas, the creative process can be seen, criticized, changed, progressed by the human mind. There are endless possibilities in the creative process, but when it becomes a poem or any other art form it loses all of that and becomes inert, giving just what the author intended it to.

Comic irony

When there is a serious underlying meaning, a contrast or a generalization under a witty, humorous or light statement, then you call it comic irony.

The first sentence of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a perfect example of comic irony.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

However, we soon find out that what is actually true is that women are always in search of a single man with a good fortune, and not otherwise.

Comic irony in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

“Here! Give me your fork, Mum, and take the baby,” said Flopson. “Don’t take it that way, or you’ll get its head under the table.”

Thus advised, Mrs. Pocket took it the other way, and got its head upon the table; which was announced to all present by a prodigious concussion.

“Dear, dear! Give it back, Mum,” said Flopson; “and Miss Jane, come and dance to baby, do!”

Irony-filled Ironic by Alanis Morissette

An old man turned ninety-eight

He won the lottery and died the next day
It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay
It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late
And isn’t it ironic…dontcha think

It’s like rain on your wedding day

It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought…it figures

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly

He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
“Well isn’t this nice…”
And isn’t it ironic…dontcha think

A traffic jam when you’re already late

A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn’t it ironic…dontcha think
A little too ironic…and yeah I really do think…

I have cut the song short so that only irony is included. I hope you don’t mind.

Allusion in The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,

Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out…”

(Cupidon is French for Cupid)

“The Chair…marble” is an allusion to the bedroom of Imogen in Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline; Cupid you all know.

“I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs

Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest -
I too awaited the expected guest.”

Tiresias was the famous blind prophet of ancient Greece. Tiresias is one of the major characters in The Odyssey by Homer.

Allusions in Inferno by Dante

“Greater fear I do not think there was when Phaethon abandoned the reins, whereby heaven, as is still apparent, was scorched; nor when the wretchedIcarus felt his flanks unfeathering through the melting of the wax, his father shouting to him, “Ill way thou holdest,” than mine was, when I saw that I was in the air on every side, and saw every sight vanished, except that of the beast.”


Phaethon is a legendary character in Greek mythology. Phaethon, the son of Sun-god, wished to drive his father’s chariot, but he didn’t know that he won’t be able to control it. The Sun-god promised him his wish without knowing what it was. When Phaethon took hold of the reins, he knew he couldn’t control it. The uncontrolled chariot caused destruction wherever it went. At last, Zeus threw a thunderbold at Phaethon to stop the chariot, which killed him.


Daedalus, Icarus’ father, made wings of feathers and clay for both of them to escape from the prison of king Minos. Before taking off, Daedalus warned Icarus not to go near the sun or the wax will melt. But Icarus got so excited by the flight that he went too close to the sun. The wax melted away and he fell down and died.

Biblical allusion in Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson

‘”There!” says she, and taking the most unwomanly oaths upon her

tongue, bade me begone and carry it to the Judas who had sent me.
It was the first time I had heard the name applied to Mr. Henry; I
was staggered besides at her sudden vehemence of word and manner,
and got forth from the room, under this shower of curses, like a
beaten dog.’

It is believed that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus.

“Yet what founded our particular
friendship was a circumstance, by itself as romantic as any fable
of King Arthur.”

King Arthur is a legendary British king whose historicity is still being debated by scholars. His knights, the round table conference, his sword Excalibur, his wife – Guinevere, his rival in love – Lancelot, his magician mentor – Merlin, his court – Camelot, the Holy Grail etc. can also be used as allusions.

Allusions in Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

“…there was a pathologist for his pathos, a cystologist for his cysts, and a bald and pedantic cetologist from the zoology department at Harvard who had been shanghaied ruthlessly into the Medical Corps by a faulty anode in an I.B.M. machine and spend his sessions with the dying colonel trying to discuss Moby Dick with him.”

‘That’s not what justice is,’ the Colonel jeered, and began pounding the table again with his big fat hand. ‘That’s what Karl Marx is. I’ll tell you what justice is…”

Greek allusions in The World is too Much with us; Late or Soon by William Wordsworth

“Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”

Proteus is a Greek sea-god who can foretell the future, but he will only do so when overpowered. He transforms himself to avoid being captured.

Triton is a Greek god, the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Triton is half man, half fish. He carries a conch shell (horn) which he blows so loudly that it shivers the earth. Today, Triton is associated with toughness and merman-like features.

Allusion in Musée des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden

“In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”

This passage contemplates on a painting made by Breughel titled ‘The fall of Icarus’ shown above this article. (Icarus’ splashing feet could be seen near the ship.)

Literary allusions in The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

“No country whose colonists’ imagination had created an Adela Quested and aDaphne Manners could have denied its seed to the most yielding of its vicereines.”

Adela Quested was a fictional character in A Passage to India by E.M. Foster, who “thought” she was raped by an Indian doctor, Dr. Aziz, in the Marabar Caves. It is suggested that she was attracted towards him and thus imagined the rape.

Daphne Manners
 is also a fictional character in The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott. In British India, Daphne falls in love with a young Indian, Hari. During civil war, she is raped by a gang (Hari is unable to save her). Later in court, she refuses to help the prosecution punish Hari and other Indian youth who are arrested in connection with the rape. She is seen as a traitor by the British.

Allusion in The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

“Whatever the truth of the matter, it soon became apparent that Jarasandha, with the menacing figure of Zaleel Shah Jhoota hissing behind him like an under-ageRasputin, had no intention of relaxing his grip on what the Americans so charmingly call the short and curlies of his eastern compatriots.”

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian mystic and psychic who is believed to have influenced the Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his wife and son. He is said to have helped in the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917.
Overstatement: Hyperbole
Hyperbole in A Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

“…(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin–
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

Hyperbole in Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

Hyperbole in Prose

Hyperbole in The Iliad by Homer

“…even so did the mighty multitude pour from ships and tents to the

assembly, and range themselves upon the wide-watered shore, while
among them ran Wildfire Rumour, messenger of Jove, urging them
ever to the fore. Thus they gathered in a pell-mell of mad
confusion, and the earth groaned under the tramp of men as the
people sought their places.”

Mars roared as loudly as nine or ten thousand men in the thick of a

fight, and the Achaeans and Trojans were struck with panic, so
terrible was the cry he raised.”

“With this she left them, and the two winds rose with a cry that

rent the air and swept the clouds before them. They blew on and
on until they came to the sea, and the waves rose high beneath

“—even so furiously did

Achilles rage, wielding his spear as though he were a god, and
giving chase to those whom he would slay, till the dark earth ran
with blood

Hyperbole in The Adventures of Pinocchio by C. Collodi

“He cried all night, and dawn found him still there, though his tears had dried and only hard, dry sobs shook his wooden frame. But these were so loud that they could be heard by the faraway hills…”

Hyperbole in The Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

He was a fugitive from all the plagues and catastrophes that had ever lashed mankind. He had survived pellagra in Persia, scurvy in the Malayan archipelago, leprosy in Alexandria, beriberi in Japan, bubonic plague in Madagscar, an earthquake in Sicily, and a disastrous shipwreck in the strait of Magellan.”

Hyperbole in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

“Next morning the not-yet-subsided sea rolled in long slow billows of mighty bulk, and striving in the Pequod’s gurgling track, pushed her on like giants’ palms outspread. The strong unstaggering breeze abounded so, that sky and air seemed vast outbellying sails; the whole world boomed before the wind.”

Hyperbole in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.”

Hyperbole in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

“I had to wait in the station for ten days–an eternity.”

(Italics mine)

A list of my hyperboles

She nearly drowned in her tears.

The gaping hole would have swallowed an America.

I jumped up to the moon and came back till she finished her makeup.

If I were to become any richer, I would have bough a cloud.

Dullness spread to the core of the world when he opened his mouth.

Exhausted, I dropped down dead.

He is not a man; he’s a giant, a titanic.

I lost my sense of humor in 127 B.C, to be precise.

Her beauty eclipsed the sun.

The sound of the shot echoed in the world.

The size of her diamond dictated her mood.

If her masks were to fall, it would fill the earth.

Her voice brought on earthquakes.

You are telling me this one hundred and two million times.
A paradox is a statement or a theory that is self-contradictory in nature or leads to a contradiction without seeming to. For example – ‘I tell lies only to truthful people.’ Now, the speaker is telling a lie if he thinks the other person is a truthful person, but the speaker is telling the truth if he doesn’t think of the other person a liar. Here, only the speaker knows what he thinks of the other person, so can never know whether he is telling a lie or not. Sometimes, a paradox leads to a conclusion and sometimes not.

The word paradox comes from Latin Paradoxum meaning contrary to opinion.

Examples of paradoxes

I always tell lies.

We must go to war to make peace.

I can resist anything except temptation – Oscar Wilde

Extreme rationalism, by ‘seeing through’ all ‘rational’ motives, leaves us creatures of wholly irrational behaviour. – C. S. Lewis

Each new power won by man (over nature) is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. – C. S. Lewis

To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting. – King Stanislaw II

Freedom is not doing what you want, freedom is wanting to do what you have to do…this kind of freedom is always rooted in practiced habit. – Northrop Frye

Examples of Paradox in Literature

Paradox in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Chapter – A Mad Tea-Party

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
`I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, `so I can’t take more.’
`You mean you can’t take less,’ said the Hatter: `it’s very easy to take more than nothing.’
`Nobody asked your opinion,’ said Alice.
`Who’s making personal remarks now?’ the Hatter asked triumphantly.

Paradox in Catch-22 by Joseph Heller 

Chapter 5 – Chief White Halfoat

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.


Chapter 10 – Wintergreen

‘That’s just what I mean,’ Dr. Stubbs answered. ‘That crazy bastard may be the only sane one left.’


Chapter 16 – Luciana

‘I will. I’ll marry you.’

‘Ma non posso sposarti.’
‘Why can’t you marry me?’
‘Perche sei pazzo.’
‘Why am I crazy?’
‘Perche vuoi sposarmi.’
Yossarian wrinkled his forehead with quizzical amusement. ‘You won’t marry me because I’m crazy, and you say I’m crazy because I want to marry you? Is that right?’

Paradox in 
The Holy Sonnets – Death Be Not Proud by John Donne

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Might and dreadful . . .
. . . One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,¼br> And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

If death is proud, then certainly it mustn’t have died or defeated. If you read the whole sonnet, you will find that the paradox between the power and inevitability of death is put against the poet’s wish to demean death by calling it a short sleep.

Paradox in 
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Act I Scene V

“For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.”

Here, holiness is juxtaposed with physical love, which in itself is a paradox because holiness shuns physical love.

Paradox in 
1984 by George Orwell
Chapter 1

“War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

Personification for Ornamentation

Revealing self-species-love, personification is an ontological metaphor in which you give human attributes to abstractions, inanimate objects, and any other living being except, of course, humans.

If horses were ruling, it would be like – “Gosh, these humans neigh all the time.”

Anyways, as we are ruling, why not see our country as mother, a forest as a beautiful enchantress or a train whistling in the dewy morn. Give them human qualities, make them feel!

Personification is different from anthropomorphism where human attributes are bestowed to non-living things and animals etc. A perfect example would beAnimal Farm by George Orwell.

Personification allegory

You can also use personification to convert an object or a concept into a character.

That night, Death opened its loving arms and enveloped me in oblivion.

Now, death is Death, a character, a proper noun. This writing technique is known as personification allegory. It was mostly used in morality plays of medieval literature. A perfect example would be the play Everyman where all the characters are personifications. There is Everyman, Death, Messenger, Good Deeds, Goods, Cousin, God etc. Today, it sounds funny, but in those days it was fashion.

Today, personification allegory is hardly used, so we’ll leave it at that and discuss personification used for ornamentation.

Examples of Personifications for Ornamentation

Personification in Paradise Lost by John Milton

“…Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar
Stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined;
Till at his second bidding Darkness fled,
Light shone, and order from disorder sprung…”

“…the setting sun

Slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise
Levelled his evening rays…”

Personification in To Autumn by John Keats

“Thee (autumn) sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers…”

Personification in Earth’s Answer by William Blake

“Earth raised up her head

From the darkness dread and drear,
Her light fled,
Stony, dread,
And her locks covered with grey despair.”

Personification in Once by the Pacific by Robert Frost

“The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,
Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.
You could not tell, and yet it looked as if
The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,
The cliff in being backed by continent…”

Personification in Because I could not stop for Death by Emily Dickinson

“Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.”

Personification in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

“The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.”

Personification in The Railway Train by Emily Dickinson

“I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step

Around a pile of mountains,

And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare…”

Personification in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

“Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death,
Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth,
Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open,
And, in despite, I’ll cram thee with more food!”

Personification in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

“I was seduced into something like admiration – like envy. Glamour urged him on, glamour kept him unscathed.”

“And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”

A list of my personifications
All the dogs stopped to stare at me.

I put coins into the box, and whoop; they double themselves.

My laptop hates petting.

They spear my country’s heart with every injustice.

My pen is my constant companion.

The words conspired with each other and proposed a strike.

The burning lash of the sun, whipped the ovary-shaped town.

The heat swallowed towns and cities.

The clouds intervened between the blazing fire of the sun and the suffering citizens.

After a noiseless victory, the eternal sun regained his empire from the clouds, vanishing them altogether.

The afternoon held on to the heat like a massive weapon, scaring people from leaving their homes.

The burning wind blew across the town in frenzy.

The hot wind charged into the room from the window, stung Kesha on the cheek, then comfortably spread out like an unassuming guest.

Thousands of obese drops of water curtained the view.

In the other room, like a well-nourished pet, fear came galloping towards Amma and bit her hard.

Sitting in the dark room, an army of hatred collected in her heart.

Darkness and light rebelled against time.

Lovingly, death held her hand and she floated away into the white light.


Allegory is the use of fictional characters on the literal level of a story to unravel the abstract, philosophical, divine, historical, social, moral, mythological, religious or political meaning lying underneath its surface. Great allegories have many levels of meanings.

Sometimes, allegorical works use personification to underline the hidden symbolic meaning. At other times, the story runs like any other story at the surface, but for those who care to see, there is an underlying meaning. Allegory works well for both superficial readers and deep readers.

Allegory is also used for satire. Gulliver Travels uses allegory to show the discrepancy between what man thinks he is (cultured, rational, truthful, virtuous) and how he acts (brutally, selfishly, irrationally, viciously). Gulliver Travels has so many levels and they were so well covered by Swift with a fictional surface that Gulliver’s Travels became a popular children’s book. 

In The Animal Farm, George Orwell personifies animals to satirize the corruption in politics. In the book, Orwell shows how politicians dupe the public to come into power, enjoy life at their expense through manipulation and keep changing their ideals to suit their needs. This is shown through the medium of an animal farm, which symbolizes the world; the pigs are the politicians, the farm animals the public. What better way than to call politicians pigs and then throw your hands up in allegorical innocence!

Some famous allegorical works –

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (religious allegory)

The allegory of the cave, the divided line and the sun in The Republic by Plato (philosophical allegory)

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne (moral allegory)

The Fairie Queene by Edmund Spenser (moral allegory)

A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift (religious allegory)

Everyman (moral allegory)

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (moral allegory)

Moby Dick by Herman Melville (moral allegory)

Poem – Piers Plowman by William Langland (moral allegory)

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (religious allegory)

Consolation of Philosophy by Boetheus (moral allegory)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (social, moral allegory


He marched off to class like a soldier on a mission. 

Her smile was as bright as the sun
The puddle seemed as big as the ocean. 
When she gets embarrassed, her face turns as red as a clown's nose. 
Grandma is as busy as a queen bee in her hive. 
She screamed louder than a siren on a police car
She ran like a race horse across the finish line. 
He looked as tired as a marathon runner after a race. 
Mother Theresa was a kind as Jesus himself. 

Like a newly hatched chick, the infant stared at her proud parents

He waved his blue ribbon looking as proud as a peacock. 
He ate like he hadn't seen food in a week. 
Her son is as smart as Albert Einstein on steroids. 
She burned more calories than a team of football players at practice. 
He swims like a fish in the ocean.
"Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour: 
England hath need of thee . . .." 
(William Wordsworth, "London, 1802")
"Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art" 
(John Keats)
"Science! True daughter of Old Time thou art!" 
(Edgar Allan Poe, "To Science")
"Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. . . . Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead." 
(James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)
"Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone 
Without a dream in my heart 
Without a love of my own. 
(Lorenz Hart, "Blue Moon")
"O stranger of the future! 
O inconceivable being! 
whatever the shape of your house
however you scoot from place to place, 
no matter how strange and colorless the clothes you may wear, 
I bet nobody likes a wet dog either. 
I bet everyone in your pub, 
even the children, pushes her away." 
(Billy Collins, "To a Stranger Born in Some Distant Country Hundreds of Years from Now")

"Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour" from the sonnet sonnet 'Milton' by William Wordsworth

"O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, / That I am meek and gentle with these butchers! / Thou art the ruins of the noblest man / That ever lived in the tide of times." from Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1. by William Shakespeare

"For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel. Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him." from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

"To what green altar, O mysterious priest, / Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, / And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?" from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats

"Roll on thou dark and deep blue ocean." from "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by Lord Byron

O Captain! My Captain!, title of the famous poem by Walt Whitman

"Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend, / More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child / Than the sea-monster." from King Lear by William Shakespeare

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
windows, and through curtains call on us? from "The Sun Rising" 

"Oh, Death, be not proud." by John Donne

The stars danced playfully in the moonlit sky.

The run down house appeared depressed.

The first rays of morning tiptoed through the meadow.

She did not realize that opportunity was knocking at her door.

He did not realize that his last chance was walking out the door.

The bees played hide and seek with the flowers as they buzzed from one to another.

The wind howled its mighty objection.

The snow swaddled the earth like a mother would her infant child.

The river swallowed the earth as the water continued to rise higher and higher.

Time flew and before we knew it, it was time for me to go home.

The ocean waves lashed out at the boat and the storm continued to brew.

My computer throws a fit every time I try to use it.

The thunder grumbled like an old man.

The flowers waltzed in the gentle breeze.

Her life passed her by.

The sun glared down at me from the sky.

The moon winked at me through the clouds above.

The wind sang through the meadow.

The car was suffering and was in need of some TLC.

At precisely 6:30 am my alarm clock sprang to life.

The window panes were talking as the wind blew through them.

The ocean danced in the moonlight.

The words appeared to leap off of the paper as she read the story.

The phone awakened with a mighty ring.

The funeral raced by me in a blur.

While making my way to my car, it appeared to smile at me mischievously.

The car, painted lime green, raced by screaming for attention.

The butterflies in the meadow seemed to two-step with one another.

The waffle jumped up out of the toaster.

The popcorn leapt out of the bowl.

When the DVD went on sale, it flew off the shelves.

I tripped because the curb jumped out in front of me.

Time creeps up on you.

The news took me by surprise.

The fire ran wild.

The thunder clapped angrily in the distance.

The tornado ran through town without a care.

The door protested as it opened slowly.

The evil tree was lurking in the shadows.

The tree branch moaned as I swung from it.

Time marches to the beat of its own drum.

The storm attacked the town with great rage.

My life came screeching to a halt.

The baseball screamed all the way into the outfield.

The blizzard swallowed the town.

The tsunami raced towards the coastline.

The avalanche devoured everything in its path.

The pistol glared at me from its holster.

The car beckoned me from across the showroom.

I could hear Hawaii calling my name.

Synecdoche: part for the whole

The rustler bragged he'd absconded with five hundred head of longhorns.

Listen, you've got to come take a look at my new set of wheels.
"He shall think differently," the musketeer threatened, "when he feels the point of my steel."
“bread” can be used to represent food in general or money (e.g. he is the breadwinner; music is my bread and butter). The word “sails” is often used to refer to a whole ship.

The phrase "hired hands" can be used to refer to workmen

The word "ivories" is often used to denote piano keys, even though the keys are no longer made of ivory.
The word "lead" is commonly used to refer to bullets.
Metonymy: part for the whole

"Capitol Hill" refers to both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives

 "pentagon" can refer to a few decision-making generals.
The pen is mightier than the sword

We await word from the crown

I'm told he's gone so far as to give her a diamond ring

The IRS is auditing me? Great. All I need is a couple of suits arriving at my door

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